Are You a Victim?

"And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)

Are you a victim? Now think on that a minute.

Has anyone rejected you, hurt you, forgotten you, trampled over you to get where they were headed?

Has someone stolen your identity, taken your sexual purity, robbed you of your childhood, destroyed your reputation?

Did you live through a terrible storm, suffer a great loss, endure unthinkable hardship?

Have you carried a heavy burden, one that seems weightier than most?

Truthfully, to one degree or another we can all look back over our lives and recall hurts, tragedies, injustices, and losses. Some of us have certainly endured more pain than others, but in every life a little sorrow has been sown. And in some lives, great pain and sorrow has been dumped by the trunkload. I recognize that.

But there's a difference between suffering hurt or loss and being a victim, right? When we define ourselves as a victim, even in not so specific a word, we indicate that the loss or hurt or tragedy we experienced has left such a mark on us that we can be nothing else. We allow that bad thing, that hurtful experience and even that evil or misguided person to define us.

And that applies to the most battering and bruising blows as well as the tiniest insults. After all, I know people, and you do, too, who have suffered numerous debilitating losses and tragedies and you'd never know it except you heard their testimony somewhere along the way. Despite their past pains, they beam with joy and hope. And, on the other hand, I know, and you do, too, those who have suffered no great loss other than occasional discomforts or oversights, and yet they wear the garb of discontent and melancholy most every day.

Each day we have a choice to make. We decide if we are a victim or a victor.

And that decision has less to do with what we've encountered in life than how we've decided to embrace it. We can let our tragedies, our injustices, our rejections, and our losses mark us as victims. Or we can take those same circumstances and problems and choose to learn, grow and become more because of them, making us the victor.

Joseph knew more pain and injustice than any of Jacob's other sons. He was beaten, rejected by his own family, sold into slavery, slammed into prison unjustly, and forgotten by those who promised to remember him. Yet Joseph refused to see himself as the victim. He forgave, moved on, issued grace, waited with patience, treated others gently, looked for how the Lord might use him and blessed others.

And as a victor, Joseph became "bread" for other people who were suffering. Because he did not wear the scarlett V of victim, he was freed up to bless and meet needs and give wisdom and share abundantly and restore and rejoice. Joseph's encounters with pain left him full rather than empty. But that was a choice he had to make.

Again I ask you, are you a victim? Have you been wearing the garb of a victim? Bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, anger, jealousy, pride, selfishness, self-pity?

You can have a much more glorious life if you will put those garments down and pick up the garments of the redeemed instead:

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Look, I know that the attitudes of a victim become quite comfortable (like the pajamas I've had on for the past 48 hours!) But someone needs to tell you that the clothing of a victim stinks and you can do so much better!

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate today, I thought it would be nice to end with his words on the same subject.

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." MLK

"A man can't ride your back unless it's bent." MLK

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him." MLK

Let's choose the peace of being a victor today over the "violence" of being a victim.

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